Child endangerment is a form of child abuse or neglect in Nevada where a parent or guardian leaves a child in a dangerous situation. A person may be convicted of this crime even if he/she never lays a hand on the child or does not mean for the child to be harmed. Penalties for child endangerment range from only fines to decades in Nevada State Prison depending on:
- the extent of the injuries,
- whether the defendant is a repeat offender, and
- whether the endangerment was willful.
It is not uncommon for people to be falsely accused of child endangerment. Typical defenses include that the child made up the allegations or that the defendant did not knowingly endanger the child.
Note that child endangerment convictions in Nevada may be sealed from the defendant’s criminal record after two or five years, depending on the case. And immigrants convicted of child endangerment face deportation.
Below our Las Vegas child endangerment attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is child endangerment in Nevada?
- 2. How do I fight the charges?
- 3. Can I go to jail?
- 4. Can I get the case sealed?
- 5. Can I get deported?
- 6. How do I report child endangerment in Nevada?
- 7. When is child neglect a crime in Nevada?
Child endangerment is just one form of child abuse. Others include physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, and neglect. For more information on these offenses, see our article on Nevada child abuse crimes.
Nevada’s legal definition of “child endangerment” is when someone knowingly places a minor (under 18) in a situation that may harm his/her physical or mental well-being.1 Mesquite criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Jack lives in Henderson with his young son. Jack knows that his neighbor operates a meth lab in his basement. One day Jack has to rush to work and leaves his son with his neighbor.
If caught, Jack could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for child endangerment for knowingly leaving his son in a drug den. (And the neighbor, of course, could be charged with the Nevada crime of making drugs.)
It is irrelevant in the above example if the son sustains no injuries. All that matters is that a reasonable person would have foreseen that leaving a child in a meth lab might cause the child to be physically or mentally harmed. Other possible examples of child endangerment include:
- leaving a child with a family member that is abusive
- allowing a child to play in or near a dangerous or hazardous location
- transporting a child in a stolen car
Note that a defendant should not be convicted of child endangerment in Nevada if he/she could not have reasonably foreseen that the child may be harmed. If Jack in the above example had no idea that his neighbor ran a meth lab, then Jack should not be held liable for child endangerment. Beatty criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives another example:
Example: Ben takes his daughter to a playground in North Las Vegas. Yellow tape that had cordoned off the jungle gym flew away in the wind before Ben got there. When his daughter climbs the jungle gym, it collapses and she sustains a broken leg.
The police then book Ben at North Las Vegas Detention Center for allowing his daughter to be in a dangerous environment. But since Ben had no idea that the jungle gym was not operational, he should not be convicted of charges of child endangerment.
Note that leaving a child alone in a car is a separate offense from endangerment.2 Learn more in our article about leaving a child unattended in a vehicle in Nevada (NRS 202.485).
The best ways to fight child endangerment allegations in Nevada depend on the facts of the case and the available evidence. Typical defenses include the following:
- False accusations. It is not unusual for people to get wrongly accused of child endangerment by vengeful exes or irritable children. In some cases, children even inflict wounds on themselves to show they have been abused. In these cases, medical experts may be able to show the court how those wounds were self-inflicted. In addition, a defense attorney can challenge the accuser’s credibility on cross-examination.
- Lack of knowing. A person does not commit child endangerment by putting the child in a situation the person has every reason to believe is safe. As long as the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly placed the child in a location that he/she should have realized was dangerous or hazardous, the case should be dismissed.
- Lack of foreseeable physical or mental harm. Child endangerment charges do not apply if the child could not have foreseeably suffered any physical or emotional harm. As long as the defendant put the child in a safe space that was not reasonably dangerous, he/she should not face charges.3
Note that it is not a legitimate defense that the defendant had no intent to abuse the child. Putting a child in an environment that a reasonable person should know is hazardous may qualify as child endangerment.
Possibly. The penalties for child endangerment in Nevada turn on three factors:
- the defendant’s history of child abuse,
- whether the child suffered substantial bodily harm or substantial mental harm, and
- whether the defendant willfully caused the child to be endangered
Note that willfully causing a child to be endangered carries harsher penalties than if the defendant knowingly permitted the child to be endangered by someone or something else. For example, leaving a toddler home alone is willful endangerment. In contrast, leaving a toddler with an uncle who beats him would be permissive endangerment if the defendant knew the uncle had a history of abuse.4
If the child suffered substantial bodily or mental harm:
If the child suffered no substantial harm AND the alleged endangerment was willful:
If the defendant has no prior child abuse convictions, the incident is a category B felony carrying one to six (1 – 6) years in prison.
If the defendant is a repeat offender, child endangerment carries two to fifteen (2 – 15) years in prison.
If the child suffered no substantial harm AND the alleged endangerment was permissive:
As long as the defendant has no previous convictions for child abuse, child endangerment is charged as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada carrying:
- $2,000 in fines, and/or
- 364 days in jail
If the defender is a repeat offender, child endangerment is charged as a category C felony in Nevada carrying:
- one to five (1 – 5) years in prison, and
- maybe a $10,000 fine
Yes. For category C or B felony convictions, the defendant may seek a record seal five (5) years after the case closes. For gross misdemeanor convictions, the waiting period is two (2) years. But if the child endangerment case got dismissed (which means there was no conviction), then the defendant may commence the record seal process right away.5
Possibly. Child endangerment may be a crime involving moral turpitude, which is deportable. Therefore, non-citizens who are charged with child endangerment should hire an experienced attorney to try to get the charge either dropped or reduced to a non-deportable crime. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.6
People who suspect a child is a victim of endangerment in Nevada may contact Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS will then conduct an investigation and gather information about the situation. If it finds reasonable cause of child abuse, it will contact the police to take further action.
Note that anyone may contact CPS with tips, including people who wish to remain anonymous. Certain professionals such as clergy, doctors, educators, and counselors are legally required to contact CPS with reports of suspected child abuse.7
People may report child abuse to the Child Abuse Hotline in Clark County, Nevada, at (702) 399-0081 and [email protected]. It is not necessary that the callers give proof of the abuse. Child abuse can also be reported to 911.
Parents and guardians face criminal charges for neglect of a child when they abandon the child or fail to provide the child with necessary care, such as:
- food and water
- medicines and doctor visits
Child neglect is a crime even if the minor is not seriously physically or emotionally injured. Merely the act of neglecting a child qualifies as a criminal offense. The penalties for child neglect are the same as for child endangerment (discussed above in section 3).8
Accused of child endangerment in Nevada? Call us for help…
If you have been arrested for “child endangerment” or any kind of child abuse in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense lawyers for a free meeting to discuss your case. Our goal is to try to get the charges dismissed or reduced. And we are always prepared to fight for you at trial.
For more information about California child endangerment law, see our article on California child endangerment law.